Great Quality ZX-5572

Last night, after shopping online for Dells all day, Mom and I went to Fry’s Electronics to buy a cheap no-name laptop (the brand name is “Great Quality” or just “GQ” and is only sold by Fry’s and their website, It is actually pretty decent. It doesn’t have built-in wireless but she can get a USB thumbdrive type of adapter for $30 (on sale) if she ever needs it. The silver chassis looks great and is thin and lightweight. Because the notebook was so cheap ($500) already and was no-name I recommended she get a 3-year extended warranty for $130. So it was $670 for a 1.3 GHz Celeron 256 MB 40 GB notebook with a 15-inch screen and a CD-RW/DVD combo drive, including tax. The equivalent Dell was $783 and only had a 90-day warranty, but included an internal wireless card. When buying a cheap computer $100 is a lot of money. Plus Dell’s free printer used Dell cartridges you can only get from them and this free printer is a Canon (iP1600) so cartridges should be widely available.

There was still foam paper wrapped around the notebook, so even though the box had been opened, it looked like it was in mint condition and had never been started. It started up without any trouble, I got MS Office installed, transferred some files from their old computer with my thumb drive, and dialed in to the internet to start downloading Windows XP patches. That tested most everything on the computer and it all worked flawlessly.

The Fry’s store was actually pretty nice inside even though it was enormous. The salesmen were reasonably honest and readily available though they weren’t particularly knowledgable (they didn’t know about the newspaper ad and said USB wireless adapters weren’t available). They didn’t push extras too hard or try to upsize us to a more expensive computer. We had some trouble at checkout because they had given us the wrong free printer and had to go back and get the right one (about a mile walk, so it took a while). Their checkout process is horrible where the salesman has to write a quote and then the cashier rings it up. It took at least half an hour to check out. I found out later that all of this fits perfectly with Fry’s reputation. I found a great web page about how to shop at Fry’s and a Salon article about Fry’s as well. The first guy likens shopping at Fry’s to competing in an Olympic event.

Mom didn’t realize she could use the notebook as her primary PC at home. She just figured it would be good to take to Florida. But I told her she could hook up an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor if she wanted. Their desktop monitor is only 1 inch bigger than the screen on the notebook though (Mom measured it).

El Dejumbler

I have always suspected that if you installed MS Word with a different language that my DeJumbler would unscramble words in that language just as well as it does in English. But I never wanted to reinstall Word just to test it out. Maybe Kelly’s story got me thinking and I decided to see if I could change the language without reinstalling. Well, it isn’t too hard at all and the DeJumbler works fine in any language from Basque to Ukranian.

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Today when I visited Mac5 five of the little pictures for each blog had people smoking cigars. Jeb, Ted, Carol, Eric, and Grant. I wonder if people will think all we do is smoke cigars? Ironically, Dad was not smoking a cigar in his picture so it could potentially go to six. I doubt Abbey smokes cigars, but we should get pictures of Claire and Kelly smoking them.

The End of Columbia House

I got a letter last week saying the Columbia House Music Club was no more. I have been an off-and-on member since high school. It was a great way to get albums, and later CD’s, at good prices (on the average) and probably half of my collection came from them.

As a teenager it was one of those great lessons in consumerism that if you didn’t play by their rules you would be very, very unhappy. I was always good about sending their monthly card back so that I wouldn’t automatically get whatever horrible album they were making available to their members that month (“If you want the selection of the month, do nothing! It will automatically be shipped to you”). I still managed to make some impulse buys and order some pretty lousy albums, but it was always fun getting that brown cardboard box in the mail (or a moment filled with dread if you knew you hadn’t ordered anything and hadn’t sent back a card in a while). With LP’s they came in a great big flat box, but the CD’s came in a brick. I learned to open the box carefully so that I could re-use the box if I needed to send it back. They would send you a nasty letter if you just wrote “Return to Sender” on the box and didn’t pay the postage yourself to send it back.

I would run the math and figure out that if I got 10 CD’s free plus one at half price, got one free by writing a number in the gold box, paid shipping, and bought 4 more in the next three years that the average price would be about $6 per CD. Then they would tempt you with crazy offers like Buy 1 Get 3 Free. The one you would buy would cost $20, plus you paid $2 shipping on the 4 CD’s, but that still meant you got 4 CD’s for $28.

Every now and then some class action lawsuit would be settled and you’d get a free CD for Columbia House’s misleading practices. All the better!

I signed up friends like Rich and Crispin when I told them about the average cost of the albums. They really wound up with some garbage when they didn’t send in their cards and Crispin even bequeathed his copies of The Wayne’s World Soundtrack and Queen’s A Kind of Magic to me when he moved out.

Columbia House has become part of BMG Music Service which I always thought of as a Columbia House wannabe.

Mom’s Mix

In celebration of Mom’s birthday and without any Wynnona to offer, I made her a mix CD. It is based on some of the songs I got around the time I made Dad’s Mix which consisted mostly of pre-rock 50’s songs. I really don’t know what Mom would like any more than what Dad would like, but I put some later pop songs like Captain and Tennille, Righteous Brothers, and Neil Diamond on this one.

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Google Pays

A year after joining Google’s AdSense program, I finally got up to $100 in ad revenue at the end of June. I got a check towards the end of July. I was hoping for a really fancy colorful Google check, but it’s just a normal looking one. Someone needs to sell them some better checks.

Meanwhile, the Sony page I made is doing great. It gets more hits than the battery pack page but only half the hits of the dejumbler page. However it gets a lot more ad clicks and, in July, accounted for nearly half of the monthly revenue, getting 1,546 page views, 65 ad clicks, and $7.21 in revenue.

Google Check